In the murder trial of Ramir Steve, the Delaware County prosecutor and defense attorney agree on one fact: The Upper Darby man shot and killed taxi driver Gregory Cunningham on Christmas Eve 2007.
At issue in the death-penalty trial is whether it was an accident or a cold-blooded murder.
Cunningham, 42, of Clifton Heights, was killed in what police believe was a botched robbery after he was dispatched to the 7400 block of Rogers Avenue, where Steve lived, in the early morning. After the shooting, Steve, then 18, allegedly fled in the cab.
Cunningham's body was found hours later in a walkway between two buildings of the Park Lane East Apartments in Upper Darby. His cell phone had been taken, but $700 was found in his pocket.
Yesterday, in opening statements in Delaware County Court, Assistant District Attorney James Halligan said that Steve killed the cabbie "with specific intent and malice" and that the crux of the case would come down to witnesses who will say Steve told them he confessed to the crime.
"One of the witnesses is the defendant's own identical-twin brother," said Halligan.
Walter I. Breslin, Steve's attorney, said that the shooting was accidental, not premeditated, and that it happened during a "tussle."
He told the court that his client signed a statement, made out by police, admitting to the crime, but that statements are not always true.
"The interesting thing about this case is that the defendant is an identical twin," said Breslin. He said the DNA found on the murder weapon could be from either brother.
Romar Steve, he said, provided police with clothes worn by his brother the day of the homicide and gave police a statement implicating him. Both brothers are facing separate gun charges in connection with the case.
"You will hear . . . what Romar is getting out of this - a break," said Breslin.
The first two witnesses, from the cab company that employed Cunningham, recalled the night of the murder and how they heard a man on the radio - not Cunningham - saying the cabbie would not be picking up his next fare.
"I shot the [cabdriver] and he's dead," said Theresa DeMarco, the cab-company dispatcher that night, as she recalled what was said on the radio.
DeMarco said she has had nightmares and does not talk about the crime.
Cunningham "was a friend of mine and I blame myself for this, because I sent him to that address," said DeMarco.